Ben Mills (C’20) was arrested on February 25, in front of the Tennessee Williams Center for an incident that took place at the rugby game that same day. Mills is a graduate of Sewanee and a local, having grown up in nearby Bell Buckle, TN. Prior to the arrest, Mills lived on campus with family.
According to police reports, on the day of his arrest, Mills began threatening people who were watching the rugby game and attempted to hit visiting players by slingshotting rocks at them. Mills then threatened two student firemen and began making threatening statements to the rugby players.
Mills then ventured inside the TWC with the intent to take property from the theatre costume shop. Theatre Professor Jim Crawford happened to be in the building that Saturday and intercepted Mills before he could take any University property. “I followed him to the costume shop, took his picture and told him I was calling the police. He began to randomly destroy things within reach in the hallway: a mannequin, a plastic bin. I called the police and headed upstairs to be near more people, as he was clearly spiraling out of control,” said Crawford.
Two Sewanee police officers attempted to arrest Mills after witnessing the damage to theatre department property and his strange behavior. Mills was placed in the back of a patrol car. Mills tried to jump out of the patrol car and repeatedly kicked the officers.
When the officer drew his stun gun, Mills slid to the other side of the patrol and gave the police his identity. Mills then told the officers that he had “thousands of rounds and that he was going to use them,” say the police reports.
Mills kicked an officer’s hand and stomach when the officer tried to stop Mills’ violent behavior. He was finally handcuffed and taken to the Franklin County Jail.
According to police reports, Mills is officially charged with aggravated assault, vandalism of property valued between $1,000 and $5,000, assault of a first responder (two counts), resisting arrest, disorderly conduct, and threatening mass violence at the school. Mills remained in jail for several days on a $100,000 bond before being transferred to a mental hospital in Chattanooga to be evaluated.
Despite the potential danger of the incident, given that Mills threatened the entire Sewanee community, the student body and student parents were not informed of the threat to the campus community until a week later via email. The notification came after the Winchester Herald Chronicle wrote a story about the incident. “There was no timely warning sent to the community at the time of the incident because the SPD was able to contain the situation, and it was determined that there was no longer a serious or continuing threat to students or employees,” said Acting Vice Chancellor Nancy Berner in the email. Berner later stated that Mills would not be able to lawfully return to campus. Berner then commended the Sewanee Police Department for their timely response and arrest of Mills.